Eggs - an all-round food for pregnancy nutrients

A new research review by an award-winning dietitian, published in Network Health Digest[1], has revealed that eggs are an excellent all-round food for providing key nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy. Also, recent Government advice means that pregnant women are able to enjoy runny eggs once again – as long as they are British Lion eggs.

The new report pulled together the findings of 18 different studies and reports looking at pregnancy and consumption of hens’ eggs. These concluded that the rich nutritional composition of eggs means that they can supply most of the key nutrients required during pregnancy, such as iron, iodine, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folate and choline. 

Author and dietitian, Cordelia Woodward, said: “Eggs are a neat package of protein, highly bioavailable nutrients, and one of the few natural sources of vitamin D which is vital during pregnancy.“

Woodward added: “Eggs also contain small amounts of long-chain fatty acids (typically found in marine foods) which have been linked with increased infant birth weight, reduced risk of preterm birth and reduced maternal depression. The iron in eggs plays an important role during pregnancy as this is a time when women’s blood iron levels can fall, leading to tiredness and fatigue. Iron supplements can be prescribed but may cause constipation. A daily meal which includes eggs is a natural way to boost iron in the diet”.

The report also found that:

Just one egg contains more than 100% of the vitamin B12 requirement during pregnancy. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells, as well as being involved in DNA synthesis (DNA is the genetic material for all cells, including those of the growing foetus).

More than three quarters of UK women of childbearing age have low blood levels of folate, a nutrient that helps to prevent neural tube disorders, such as spina bifida, which occur in 1 in 1000 births. Two eggs provides 55 micrograms of folate – but pregnant women still need to take a daily folic acid supplement in the first three months.

Iodine deficiency has been found in up to 40% of pregnant women and some UK studies have demonstrated that deficiency may be associated with low birth weight and delays in infant neurological and behavioural development Two eggs provides around a quarter of the daily iodine recommendation.

After oily fish, eggs are the richest source of vitamin D, providing 3.7 micrograms per serving of two eggs. Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy is linked with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, urine infections and caesarean deliveries. Pregnant women are advised to aim for 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily.

The protein level in eggs is high enough to boost satiety levels, so you feel fuller after eating. This can help women maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. Serious obesity (BMI>35) affects around 5% of pregnant women and can lead to a greater risk of caesarean sections and induced births[2].

How safe are eggs in pregnancy?
Dietitian, Dr Carrie Ruxton, comments: “Thanks to huge safety advancements in the UK, British Lion eggs are now safe to eat raw or partially cooked by pregnant women and children from the age of 6 months. This means that these groups can enjoy a runny boiled egg with soldiers, mousses, soufflés or homemade mayonnaise. As advised by the NHS[3], check whether you have the right eggs by looking for the red Lion stamp or asking restaurant staff if they are using British Lion eggs”. 

[1] Woodward C (2018); August/September - Issue 137